Punishments: Are They Effective?

Posted on 03-Aug-2014

Special feature by Lance Corporal Nathan Chan of the 10th Kuala Lumpur Company  

The infamous push up and star jumps, but two ways The Boys’ Brigade punishes. Though it is almost essential, punishment is a topic discussed sparingly due to its demoralising effect. As a result, there are many common misconceptions concerning this dearie topic.

Though often interchanged, punishment is not consequence. Consequences are a direct result of any action or behaviour. Punishment it not. Neither is punishment discipline. Discipline is the teaching of techniques to prevent mistakes through those mistakes. Punishment is but one of the methods to do so.

Instead punishment is an action, often unpleasant, undertaken after an undesired behaviour occurs in order to eliminate it. Push ups are punishments only when they committed for this purpose. Additionally, punishment can be used as a deterrent, as the threat of punishment will most likely discourage an undesired behaviour being repeated. Punishment is dispensed only to help the punished and those around him/her to avoid repeating the same action.

However, whether or not punishment is effective is a matter of debate. There are certain factors that contribute to its effectiveness. Punishment carried out right after a punishable-action has a higher chance of preventing repetition of the act. The same goes for consistency of the punishment - one carried out every time is more likely to work.

Even the background of whoever is being punished comes into play. Attempting to punish with push ups may work relatively well with most people, but certain people can perform such activities almost no discomfort. The same can go for almost any form of punishment. 

Yet even with these factors carried out completely, punishments are not guaranteed to work. Punishments are temporal - it may be productive when enforced, but the effects will most probably disappear soon after. Additionally, the punished must have a knowledge of the desired behaviour for the undesired to stop.

The most common scenario where punishments are given is during the uniform inspection, where failure to polish certain parts to one's superior’s standards would result in push ups. The most common form of punishment, but one that can have dangerous side effects.

Not polishing one's uniform parts is not wrong by itself. Punishing such an action, or rather the lack of it, promotes anger and resentment towards the punisher, as it would seem unjust. Only by understanding the logic behind the punishment and believing the punishment was deserved will such feelings be resolved.

One must consider whether punishment is beneficial in the long-run if there are so many risks and disadvantages that come with it, especially when there are other alternative means of discipline. Why not use other consequences (where undesired behaviour is prevented via logical means) instead of push ups or star jumps? Why not eliminate such unpleasant times when mistakes are made and opt for praising the times where the right thing is done?

The sad truth is that a solution both effective and non-demoralizing is hard to come by. Instead, I believe a combination of encouragement, consequence and punishment as a last resort should be used.

Page Created: 3rd August 2014
Last Updated: 3rd August 2014